HomeEnergy MineralsBulk materials firm commissions Goedgevonden stackers

Bulk materials firm commissions Goedgevonden stackers

Bulk materials handling engineering and projects company Mayer International is commissioning two stackers at Xstrata and ArmCoal’s Goedgevonden mine in South Africa. This project follows the entry of the group into South Africa at the start of 2008, when it established an office in the country. Mayer International is an Australian company built on a strong heritage in German engineering.

The luffing boom, long travelling stackers installed at Goedgevonden are respectively 1,600 tonne an hour and 2,200 tonne an hour units for stacking coal into a 250,000 tonne stockpile. The machines are guided along seven metre wide rails that extend for some 600 metres. All this had to be done within a tolerance of +/-3.0 mm to fit in with the other aspects of the operation. The stacking is done for two grades of product, these being export coking and domestic thermal coal.

The stackers are driven with twelve electric motors, and required cables imported from Italy as these cable sizes are not manufactured in South Africa. The motors were supplied by Siemens, and the electrical work was done by Kentz. The fabrication of the stackers was done on the East Rand of Gauteng.

It is Mayer International’s first major contract in South Africa and was won on the basis of machines the company designed for Xstrata’s Mt Owen mine in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia.

Mayer International has built an outstanding reputation over the last 23 years and started out with a focus on the engineering design of bulk materials handling plant. However, as the company’s South African based general manager, Geoff Walburn says, “Due to the universal shortage of these skills, we moved into project management and installation of the units we were designing. We had to have an elevation in our activities to successfully build machines of this complexity.”

For much of its life Mayer was an engineering group and was not involved in the fabrication of the equipment and implementation of the projects. It was in about 2004 that the company recognised the dramatic shortage that was elevating risks in Australia, something which was occurring all over the world. These shortage escalated risks are associated with quality and time management, and Mayer saw that its clients suffered as their fabrication and construction teams became more and more diluted in expertise. There were also risks associated with design teams where expertise had become more diluted than it used to be.

Mayer manages these risks by constantly analysing and adjusting its design processes, through its ongoing research into the mitigation of design errors, and by bridging the gap between engineers and downstream personnel.


Stacker designed by Mayer International
for Goedgevonden.

Mayer and its clients also face technical supervision risk in an environment where, again due to chronic skills shortages and elevated time pressure, even third party quality certificates no longer represent an adequate demonstration of quality. To manage these risks, it has developed a system of monitoring quality and reporting, to afford its clients confidence in the documentation furnished to them, irrespective of difficulties being borne by suppliers and certifiers on any shop floor.

“It also helps a great deal that the machine is designed specifically for its application; off the shelf units are typically over specified and that has cost implications in terms of the amount of steel used in their construction, not to mention the overall weight of the units. That impacts the structural and civils requirements, as well as the cost of operating and servicing,” Walburn says.

The company takes a holistic approach and looks at the lifecycle of the machines. “We are involved from the design through to the building, all the way through the life of the machine and in its eventual decommissioning in 30 – 40 years time and are keen to advance our involvement in service contracts.”

Over the past 23 years, some two billion tonnes of coal, iron ore, copper, bauxite, alumina and other material types have been either stockpiled, reclaimed from stock piles, loaded into ships or unloaded from ships by Mayer International designed machines.

Johannesburg based group chief financial officer, Pierre Venter, says that in the case of the units built for Goedgevonden, “We bought the steel in advance to lock in the prices at the end of 2007, as the company anticipated what would turn out to be a spike in steel prices.”

The company’s expertise extends to the engineering, design, construction, commissioning and life cycle support of ship loaders, ship unloaders, stackers, reclaimers, spreaders and other heavy mobile equipment, including gantry cranes, overhead travelling cranes and ladle cranes. Walburn says the company maintains and services these machines through inspections, auditing, upgrades and investigative services.

Mayer’s skill set integrates the six specialist areas required to deliver what is some of the most complex machinery in the world today. This is structural, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, software and control engineering to localised and international standards. It also includes project and programme engineering.

Unlike many groups, Mayer has avoided opting for fabricators in China, as Walburn feels the quality control aspects are harder to manage, taking into account language barriers, customer expectation and risks. He is also concerned about the safety environment in which the manufacture takes place. “We will rather go for quality versus price, under such circumstances.”

Walburn says that the use of South African based fabricators has a cost benefit compared with other parts of the world such as Australia and it is looking at local fabrication for projects in other parts of the world.

South Africa is the first destination outside Australia where the company has offices. “The two countries have similar cultures in many ways and it is no trouble communicating and doing business in South Africa, and we are very excited to have an operation here” Walburn says.

Venter says that the company will grow as its business does. “There is definitely more scope for growth in Africa, where a lot of infrastructure development work is still required, as opposed to Australia where a lot of the ports and harbours are already in place. We certainly would be able to do two such projects as we did at Goedgevonden simultaneously.” The company is looking at more opportunities in Africa and it is well placed as bidder in a few prominent projects.

Venter says that a lot of projects where the company is a bidder have been delayed, but very few have been cancelled. “Companies are, of course, wary due to the global financial crisis, but they are also aware that the demand for commodities will resume and don’t want to be too late when that happens.”

Walburn concludes by saying that the company has got a lot of confidence in its designs. “We are only one of a few companies worldwide that still has the capability to design machines to the customer specific requirements and that does its own design of such bulk materials handling equipment in-house. It helps a great deal to have the design team for the machine oversee its fabrication and installation,” he says. “After all, a well designed machine suited to specific needs ensures cost effective operation and maintenance for the life of the asset, which is thirty years or more.”